Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting them to the table

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Air Force announced today that they are looking for universities and companies that can help the agencies advance hypersonic research. They plan to spend as much as $30 million over five years, with a maximum grant of some $2 million a year.

NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington and the Air Force Research Laboratory's Office of Science Research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, released a broad agency announcement describing the intent to establish three national hypersonic science centers. (Details:

This jointly funded program will support university-level basic science or engineering research that provides improved understanding of hypersonic flight – flights in excess of Mach 5. James Pittman, principal investigator for NASA's Fundamental Aeronautics Program's Hypersonic Project at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., said the three critical research areas are air-breathing propulsion, materials and structures and boundary layer control.

Here's some food for thought.

The Gulf Coast is home to a NASA field office at John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, which does propulsion testing. The Gulf Coast is also home to Eglin Air Force Base, which does research, development, test and evaluation of high-speed – just how fast is classified – air weapons.

Add to that the universities that have either a campus here or some type of outreach and you've got the makings of a group that could compete for this. One of the universities is the University of Southern Mississippi, which has an international reputation for its work in advanced materials, and another is the University of New Orleans, which operates the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing – experts at manufacturing large composite structures.

Like I said, it's just food for thought. And while I'm at it, here's another morsel. What would really be great is if this region had some type of organization that could quickly bring together these potential players to see what they could bring to the table.

For details on some of these Gulf Coast RDT&E operations, click here.

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